Category Archives: Madagascar

Madagascar – Local elections, national politics

On 31 July Madagascar headed to the polls to elect local councils. The elections were one of last pieces of the transition roadmap that was designed to return the country to democracy after the coup in January 2009. Since it was finalised, the transition process has been implemented relatively successfully, but the situation remains fragile.

In the coup President Marc Ravalomanana was ousted from power. He sought exile in South Africa and was threatened with immediate arrest if he returned to Madagascar. In the end, he returned in October 2014 and was indeed arrested on his arrival. He was released only in May 2015 following an intervention by President Hery Rajaonarimampianina.

These events encapsulate the difficult return to democracy in Madagascar. In 2010 a new Constitution was approved in a referendum. In January 2014 Rajaonarimampianina was elected in a presidential election that was considered to be generally fair by international observers, even though some forces within the country contested the result. In part, this was due to what happened in the lead up to the vote. As part of the transition deal both former President Marc Ravalomanana and the coup leader and new president, Andry Rajoelina, declared that they would not stand for election. However, Ravalomanana’s wife, Lalao Ravalomanana, announced her candidacy, to which Rajoelina responded by presenting himself for election too, seeing her as a proxy for her husband. In the end, the Election Commission ruled against the candidacy of both Lalao Ravalomanana and Rajoelina as well as another former president, Didier Ratsiraka. Rajaonarimampianina, who was seen as the anti-Ravalomanana candidate, won the election, despite coming only second at the first ballot. Legislative elections were held at the same time, returning a divided parliament.

President Rajaonarimampianina’s presidency has not been uneventful. He soon distanced himself from Rajoelina and tried to shape the formation of the new government. In May 2015 he was subject to an impeachment attempt by deputies opposed to his governing style, even though the presidency has only limited powers under the 2010 semi-presidential constitution.

The most recent part of the transition process was the local elections in late July where the most important contest was the election of the mayor of the capital, Antananarivo. Here, turnout was low at about 30%. However, Lalao Ravalomanana was easily elected, winning 56% of the vote. Her TIM party, which was the former vehicle of President Ravalomanana himself, also emerged with a majority of seats on the city council. In general, though, TIM did not do so well across the island as a whole. Indeed, even though it lost this contest, President Rajaonarimampianina’s HVM party did relatively well at the elections, including in areas that had formerly been a stronghold of the TIM party. Senate elections are due to be held by the end of the year.

The question is whether Lalao Ravalomanana is merely the stalking horse for her husband. He is now free to come and go in the country, having returned freely from a foreign visit only recently. He is also back in charge of his media outlets, giving him direct access to the airwaves. However, he remains a very divisive figure on the island. Moreover, the parliament is still very divided. The transition has been managed relatively well so far, but stern tests are still ahead.

Madagascar – President’s impeachment ruled unconstitutional

Recently scholars have pointed to the increase in presidential impeachment votes. For example, Leiv Marsteintredet and Einar Berntzen in Comparative Politics (41:1, 2008) discussed how impeachment has been used in Latin America to ‘resolve’ crises between the executive and the legislature. When the two institutions are deadlocked, the legislature votes to dismiss the president. This is a solution to the problem of temporal rigidity that Linz first identified and that is brought about by fixed presidential terms. Mariana Llanos and Leiv Mainstentredet followed up this idea in 2010 in an edited volume with a number of case studies. Aníbal Pérez-Liñán also published a book on the topic in the same year.

In Madagascar presidential impeachment has already been used once before to dismiss the head of state. In September 1996 President Albert Zafy was removed from office by a combination of the National Assembly and the country’s highest court. There is a nice resume of these events in the edited book by Jody C. Baumgartner and Naoko Kada on presidential impeachments in comparative perspective. In the last few weeks it looked as if history in Madagascar was about to repeat itself in this regard.

In December 2013 Hery Rajaonarimampianina was elected president of Madagascar. He was elected in the first presidential election since the coup that topped President Marc Ravalomanana in March 2009. President Rajaonarimampianina was the candidate supported by Andry Rajoelina, who had taken power following the coup against Ravalomanana. With legislative elections being held concurrently and with Rajoelina’s group ending up as the largest single group in parliament, it seemed as if there would be a period of stability. However, this hasn’t happened.

Soon after taking power, President Rajaonarimampianina effectively broke with Rajoelina. Seemingly, Rajoelina wanted to be appointed Prime Minister, but President Rajaonarimampianina refused to to do so. The constitution states that the prime minister has to come from the largest group in the legislature. Rajoelina’s group was the largest and it wanted him to be appointed as PM. However, the president reasoned that there was a bigger non-Rajoelina group, even if it was not formally constituted. In the end, after a number of months of wrangling, another figure within Rajoelina’s group was appointed as PM. A new PM from the same group was appointed earlier this year.

Since this time the relations between the president and the legislature have remained strained. This came to a head on 26 May when deputies voted to impeach President Rajaonarimampianina by a vote of 121-4 with no abstentions. This was more than the two-thirds vote needed to dismiss the head of state in the 151-seat legislature. There were reports from pro-presidential deputies that the vote was rigged, but it stood.

The constitution states that the Assembly can vote to dismiss the president on the grounds of mental or physical incapacity to carry out the functions of the office. The list of reasons drawn up by the Assembly against the president were very wide ranging and somewhat contradictory. They included his supposed incapacity to run the country, his lack of action since his election, his interference in the business of the legislature, his failure to uphold the principle of laicity in the constitution, and his prime ministerial appointments.

According to the constitution, once an impeachment vote has been passed, it has to be approved by the High Constitutional Court. If they uphold the vote, then the Assembly once again has to vote by a two-thirds majority to formally dismiss the president.

On 12 June the High Constitutional Court issued its ruling. The Court rejected the Assembly’s impeachment vote. The Court ruled that the vote had not taken place properly and that at least 64 deputies had formally sworn that they had not voted to dismiss the president. Therefore, the two-thirds majority had not been reached. The Court also found other procedural irregularities with the process. Generally, they ruled that the impeachment claim had no legal foundation.

Interestingly, for some academic scholars at least, the Court also officially ruled that the country was semi-presidential. More importantly, it also stated that there were grounds for an agreement between the opposing parties. This was a signal to the president that even though they had ruled in his favour, he should avoid dissolving the legislature and calling fresh elections that would only introduce another period of instability.

On 13 June President Rajaonarimampianina appeared on television and in effect declared that he would not dissolve the legislature. Generally, his address has been interpreted as an attempt to calm the situation. However, some deputies remain resolutely opposed to the president and claim that they are willing to take to the streets to see him dismissed. Here, too, Madagascar has history. Let’s hope that this piece of history does not repeat itself either.

Madagascar – Legislative election

In Madagascar, the legislative election was held concurrently with the presidential election late last year. However, the results took even longer to appear than for the presidential election itself. Now, though, some figures are available.

As reported by one source, the situation looks something like this.

The so-called MAPAR (Miaraka @ Prezida Rajoelina) party has won 49 of the 151 seats in the legislature. This is the party that supports Andry Rajoelina, who ousted President Ravalomanana in 2009 and who then held the post of President of the Transition.

The Mouvance Ravalomanana has won 17 seats. This groups supports the ousted president, Marc Ravalomanana, and the losing presidential candidate, Jean Louis Robinson.

The VPM-MMM (Vondrona politika miara-dia Malagasy Miara-Miainga) movement has won 17 seats. They supported the candidacy of Hajo Herivelona Andrianainarivelo at the presidential election. He came third and said that he would not support either of the top two candidates.

The Parti Hiaraka isika, which supported the presidential candidacy of former general and Rajoelina PM, Albert Camille Vital, won 7 seats.

The LEADER-Fanilo (or Libéralisme Économique et Action Démocratique pour la Reconstruction Nationale won 5 seats.

A couple of other national parties won a handful of seats, local parties won a number of seats and the rest went to independents.

One recent article suggests that around 30 independents would support the new president, Hery Rajaonarimampianina, who was backed by MAPAR. This would have given him a parliamentary majority.

However, things seem to have changed. The new president, who was inaugurated on Saturday, has sidelined Andry Rajoelina. There were rumours that Rajoelina wanted the position of PM so that, in effect, he could still govern. However, President Rajaonarimampianina has indicated that he will appoint someone else. As a result, MAPAR appear to have withdrawn their support from the new president. This makes it very difficult for him to appoint a PM who will have the confidence of the legislature.

There is even a scenario where President Rajaonarimampianina could face a period of cohabitation. According to the constitution, as the largest group in the legislature, MAPAR looks to have the right to nominate the PM. However, the wording is ambiguous.

In short, Madagascar’s troubles are not yet over, even if some form of electoral democracy and constitutional government has been reintroduced.

Madagascar – Presidential election second round

The first round of the long-awaited presidential election in Madagascar was held on 25 October. The previous presidential election was held in 2006 and this was the first national election since the ‘coup’ in February 2009.

At the first round of the election, the top two candidates were Jean Louis Robinson, who was supported by the president who was ousted in the ‘coup’, Marc Ravalomanana, and Hery Rajaonarimampianina, who was supported by the president who took power after the coup, Andry Rajoelina. At the first round Robinson had a reasonable lead over Rajaonarimampianina of 21.1% to 15.9%.

The second round of the election was held on 20 December. The result is not yet officialized, but on Friday the Electoral Commission announced that Hery Rajaonarimampianina had won the election with 53.5% of the vote. The turnout was 50.8% compared with 61.9% at the first round.

The Robinson/Ravalomanana camp is contesting the result. They claim that their candidate won 52.9% of the vote. They are claiming hundreds of irregularities and have appealed to the international community.

The resulting situation is very difficult. The country, once again, is split in two. Former president Marc Ravalomanana is still in exile in South Africa, having been sentenced in absentia. Even if the election result is declared valid, as is probably the most likely outcome, the question remains as to what will happen to the president of the Transition Authority, Andry Rajoelina. It is unlikely that he will simply retire from the political scene. The results of the legislative election, which were held at the same time as the presidential election, have not been announced. The new president’s authority will depend at least in part of these results. In short, Madagascar is still in transition.

Madagascar – Presidential election

Madagascar’s long-awaited presidential election finally took place on 25 October.

This was the first election since the ‘coup’ in March 2009, whereby President Marc Ravalomanana resigned, or was forced to resign depending on your interpretation of events, and his place was taken by Andry Rajoelina, who became the President of the High Transitional Authority. A new constitution was approved and promulgated in December 2010.

The post-‘coup’ political process has been marked by ongoing negotiations between the three major players in the system – Rajoelina, Ravalomanana, who is in exile in South Africa and who has not been able to return safely to Madagascar, and Didier Ratsiraka, another former president. Various agreements have been reached at different times, only for them to collapse. For example, Ravalomanana announced that he would not stand as a candidate at any future presidential election and Rajoelina agreed. However, Ravalomanana’s wife was then put forward as a presidential candidate and Rajoelina decided that he too would stand.

Finally, an agreed list of candidates did emerge and the election took place. The electoral process was relatively calm and international observers seemed relatively happy with the election.

There were 33 presidential candidates. The full results are not yet available, but the top two candidates who will compete at the second round on 20 December do seem to have emerged.

  • Jean-Louis Robinson – 27.7%
  • Hery Rajaonarimampianina – 14.6%

The third-placed candidate, according to the Electoral Commission’s figures, has only 9.4% of the vote. So, it does look likely that the second round will pit Robinson against Rajaonarimampianina (a nightmare name for Twitter). As the results are updated, for example here, the percentages do not seem to be shifting very much.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Robinson is the preferred candidate of former president Ravalomanana, whereas Rajaonarimampianina is Rajoelina’s preferred candidate.

So, all is to play for, and anything could happen. Will Rajoelina allow a Ravalomanana candidate to win? Will he be able to stop it? How will those who voted for the eliminated candidates vote at the second round? Given parliamentary elections were held on the same day, what will be the make up of the new parliament? These and many other questions remain unanswered, even though Madagascar’s long transition process has taken a big step forward.